She headed toward the B&B, at first hurrying through the rain. As she splashed through the deepening puddles on the uneven sidewalk, her stockings soaked through. In fact, all of her was as wet as if she stood under a shower. Since her pace didn’t matter, she slowed, rain running down her face, sliding over her skin. A pack of squealing tourists hustled by, sharing one plastic rain poncho like a tarp. Prepared locals gave her smug smiles from under the umbrellas they always carried.
She smiled back. The rain might be cool, but the feel of it sliding on her skin brought the world into focus. A small discomfort, like her hunger, to make getting indoors that much more pleasurable.
She passed the Court des Deux Pendus without glancing at it, no matter how much she might want to. Up ahead, a man leaned against a courtyard wall, legs crossed at the ankles, an enormous black umbrella protecting his upper half, while his stylish leather shoes—likely Italian—were irretrievably drenched. Idiot.
“You look like a drowned rat, chère.”
The familiar voice brought Dani up short before she realized the stranger was speaking to her. Cautiously, she looked over her shoulder to see he’d tipped the umbrella back and was surveying her, an amused twitch behind that neat black beard.
“Are you following me?” She poured ice into the question.
“Now how could that be when you just came walking by? I should accuse you. Perhaps you’re a stalker.”
“Ha!” She barked out the laugh and turned to go, so not in the mood for more shit, all the pleasant sensuality of walking in the rain gone. “I’ll be sure to take a different route in the future.”
“Are you hungry?” he called out, lightly, mocking.
“Fuck you!” she tossed over her shoulder.
“Well, all right,” he said, from close behind her. “Though you’d have to do that my way too. Your place or mine?”
She spun around and nearly slammed into his chest. Backed up a hasty step and snagged her hair on the umbrella.
“Goddammit.” She tugged at her wet, snarled curls.
“You appear to be trapped.”
“Quit harassing me,” she hissed.
“In point of fact, you accosted my umbrella. Now, here. Hold this.” He pushed the handle at her and she took it, not looking at him while he used both hands to untangle her hair from the spokes. In her four-inch stilettos, she was nearly the same height, and his breath blew warm against her cheek, the rain drumming around them.
“Some temper you have there,” he murmured. “I can’t help but think that if you had something in your belly, you’d be a little sweeter.”
She decided declining to respond to that would be the better part of valor. That had sounded like an invitation. A tempting one.
“Nothing to say?” His lips whispered against her cheek.
“Let me go.”
“You’re free. For now.”
She started to pull back, thrusting the handle at him, but he wrapped his hands over hers.
“Let me make it up to you.”
“What?” Oh yes. Definitely tempting.
He returned her gaze, steady, calm. His eyes weren’t truly black, but a deep brown, framed by thick lashes any of her models would have killed to come by naturally. The gold hoop glinted in his ear and she was seized by the random desire to take it in her teeth. “I’ll make you something to eat. Something fabulous.”
“No?” His gaze fastened on her mouth and the moment felt oddly intimate, with the curtains of rain falling around the umbrella. “Let me feed you.”
“I’m not going to a strange man’s place—for any reason.”
“Ah.” He nodded. “I am stranger than some, it’s true. I’ll take you somewhere then. Buy you a meal. Maybe a drink. All safe and public.”
“You threw me out of your restaurant.”
“You deserved it.”
“You don’t know what I deserve.”
“Oh, but I’d love to find out. You come to my place, you play my way. If you give yourself over to me, I will show you pleasures that will keep you fed for life. A different extreme.”
Something about his tone, the heat from his body, sent arousal rippling through her. An image of the manacles on the courtyard wall slipped through her mind, taunting, compelling.
“Are we still talking about food?” She tried to sound flip, but his eyes glinted and somehow she knew he heard the desire in her voice.
“When it comes to the sensual delights, it’s all the same. Come with me for now. Let me give you a taste.”
She studied him, definitely tempted. Keeping professional distance was important, so she’d stayed in a different B&B than the rest of her colleagues. But it made for lonely evenings at times. In a week, she’d be in Paris, where she knew no one. Who knew when she’d meet another man this alluring?
“What else will you do?” he asked, as if he read her mind. “A rainy night in New Orleans is for sharing good food, a little booze, a lot of nice company.”
“I don’t know why I’m agreeing to this.”
White teeth flashed in a smile, outrageously sexy. “Because you can’t resist me, chère.”
“Yes, I do. Can you walk a bit in those sexy heels?”
“What’s a little pain, in the face of what you’re promising?”
“Exactly. C’mon, New York.” He tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow. “Let me show you my city.”